Back in the day, lingerie was often known as 'intimate wear'. And with good reason. It is one of the most personal gifts you can give a partner. Get it right and all manner of sexy times await. Boom chickawawa. Get it wrong, however - and this is sadly often the case - and she will view you in a whole new light. Let's just say it won't be flattering.
Here's what you need to know, it's not about what you find erotically appealing. Rather, it's about what she feels most confident and comfortable in. These are the two c's you need to keep top of mind as you brave the online or bricks and mortar offerings. Another 'c' that might help is carats, but that's probably another article altogether.
So, how do you figure out what she feels most confident and comfortable in? The answer lies in what she already owns. Pick a time when she's in the shower - or better still, out of the house - and have a rifle through her intimates. This is not a task you want to be caught out in - "honestly, I was just doing some research..." - so give yourself a decent window. Pay attention to items like favourite labels, recurring styles - G or brief for example, colours that keep recurring and even fabrics like satin or lace.
Allow these factors to be a guiding light. Now that you have this information on board, don't be trying to add your own special touches/fetishes. Remember there's probably a very good reason that her underwear drawer is a PVC-free zone. Ditto anything crotchless, red or created by a company whose main aim is to sell units of perfume. Also be wary of any items so high-cut that the little satin decorative bow in front sits just beneath her chin or that have press-studs at the crotch (ouch). Basically, anything you've seen that warrants your browser history being deleted immediately afterwards is not a good idea.
You can approach this task one of two ways - by heading into a store (brave) and going online (convenient but sometimes sketchy). Either way, use the information you gleaned from her existing underwear to see what upgrades might be available from brands such as La Perla, Agent Provocateur, Stella McCartney or Eres. What you're looking for are items which are similar to those she already owns but better. This is where a skilled shop assistant can be your best ally. And there's no need to feel awkward about the discussion. It's 2016. Just don't use the word 'panties'.
Like much else in the fash world, you get what you pay for and the idea here is that you are not only spoiling her but doing so in a way that's guided by her existing tastes. This is the one element you should never forget. Should hundreds of dollars for less fabric than a napkin be a bit beyond your budget, head online to Porte A Vie and check out the ranges from Gooseberry Intimates and Kat The Label.
If in doubt at any point, go back to the mental notes you made at the beginning of the expedition - as opposed to any of your sweaty little fantasies (no she's not keeping her heels on). Err on the side of elegance and brevity and you'll get it right more often than not. And remember this is way more about her than you.